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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

JUST HOW EFFECTIVE ARE COMMUNICATIONS OPERATIONS?

Communications operations are conducted at two distinct yet inter-related levels: The strategic level and the tactical level.

At the strategic level, Strategic Communications Operations (SCOs) or STRATCOM, also referred to as Strategic Information Operations, is nothing new in the “war of words” to discredit, demoralise and/or disrupt an opponent and boost the morale of the citizens and own forces. It can even be used to turn a legitimate organisation into an illegitimate organisation. But, the converse is also true: it can turn an illegitimate action into a legitimate action.

At this level, these operations entail more than simple rumour-mongering. They are used to give a government or a force an advantage in their fight against a real or perceived enemy. But they ought to include white, grey and black propaganda in such a manner that the receiver (reader, listener or watcher) at a minimum becomes aware of the message and at best, believes it.

In South Africa, and indeed in Africa, we witness the use of SCOs or propaganda warfare on a daily basis – as well as its effects. Some of it is actually quite good. Some of it is rather pathetic. But, despite my opinion of it, it still reaches many people out there and ultimately, it is the people who decide on how this will influence their lives – or react to it.

The result of all of this is, when comparing the West to the East, is that the US’s AFRICOM is now seen by many in Africa as a wolf in a sheep’s clothing and the Chinese as a sheep in a wolf’s clothing. That in itself shows the effect of these types of operations. It also shows how these types of operations can backfire on the originators.

Truth be told, these operations are financially very expensive. As an example, the US military has spent in excess of US$ 1 billion the past three years in Iraq and Afghanistan alone in trying to counter its enemies there. The result of these operations remains debateable.

Just as warfare has certain primary and dynamic principles, so too do SCO’s have primary and dynamic principles.

The first principle is, in fact, something Sun Tzu penned more than two and a half thousand years ago:

Know your enemy, know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster

To succeed with any SCO, an intimate knowledge of the enemy or target group is required. If this is knowledge is not present, any hoped for success will remain that – hoped for.

Knowing the “enemy” – or the target audience – will determine such basics as what language the message needs to be transmitted in. Paid-for news articles, advertisements, billboards, radio and television programmes, and even polls and pressure groups need to promote their messages in a language that everyone (or at least the vast majority) will understand. But, language is not the only criterion that is of great importance: culture, beliefs, level of education and so forth all determine how the message should be packaged in order to achieve maximum success.

I am reminded of a foreign company that wrote to me claiming they had a contract to “do Africa” and asked if I could recommend someone who spoke “African”. This is a basic example of how misinformed many are. When these companies get involved in SCOs, the end-result can only be terrifying at best.

The second principle of these types of operations is centralised control. Without centralised control, everyone will be developing and preparing their own uncoordinated messages and subsequently, these messages will clash with one another and render the entire operation a waste of time and money. They will also show that they are simply part of a (poorly) planned operation and therefore lose any potential value they may have had.

How the information will be packaged is likewise very important. The best message, poorly packaged will be poorly received. Incorrect packaging of the message serves no purpose if it will never reach the intended audience or target, let alone achieve the desired effect.

Furthermore, pro-active planning is critical in achieving success. In order to gain the initiative and maintain it, plans need to be formulated well in advance and those plans must be based on intelligence (reality) and not on perceived reality.

SCOs can also used to negate High-Value Targets (HVTs) or turn their followers against them. Again, detailed intelligence, coordination of effort, packaging and pro-active planning is critical to success.

At the tactical level, these operations used to be known as Communications Operations or COMOPS. At this level, the aim is to meet and discuss issues of mutual importance with the village elders and provide much needed assistance and support to the villagers in the Area of Responsibility. In essence, this is the “hearts-and-minds” war and many a young South African soldier can testify in having partaken in such operations.

It is here that, should any semblance of success be wished for, the tribal customs, beliefs and traditions be known, understood and applied by those conducting the COMOPS. It is at this level that vital information and intelligence is gathered and the support of the local population is either won or lost. If the battle is lost at this level, the gunfights that follow will bring about nothing but a hollow victory.

Those that plan these operations, especially at the strategic level, have so much technology at hand – mobile phones, blogs, social networks and so forth – that they have no excuse for their poor performance.

But looking at what is going on around me, I have to ask if these operations are successful. They present a golden opportunity to the user if correctly planned, packaged and executed but when they are haphazardly implemented, they cause more damage than good.

30 comments:

Controlsaurus said...

The old adage of "if you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow" comes to mind.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is certainly an adage that is often used, Controlsaurus but it really doesn’t work that well, especially in high density areas. What it does do is drive the locals to support the insurgents/enemy or to begin their own uprising or even passive resistance. To police this requires men and equipment – something we don’t often have.

But, the operations at tactical level are not brown-nosing operations. They need to be executed with firmness but with fairness.

My limited experience has shown me that the local population, once having accepted and bought in to your COMOPS action, become a great ally to have.

Rgds,

Eeben

Stefan said...

Good day,

Maybe a topic for future discussion or if you deem it fit, would address briefly under this article, is counter measures, sabotage-of-SCO and contra-SCO. (Please excuse if I improvised a term or two there.)

Radical Change of power in Southern Africa (such as Angola, Mozambique and Zim) was a bit before my time, though I assume before the”masses” went to violent action it must have been preceded by some of various sorts of SCO’s in order to recruit fighters and root for support from the public during the fight.
I am sure during that time the National and Military Intelligence Agencies were conducting SCOs of its own.
How effective were these counter measures and in retrospect, what would have been the best way of retaining support or persuading a nation to remain passive?
Regarding the latter, in Africa, would a passive nation discourage revolutionaries from revolting violently? Do they need the support in forms of supplies and shelter in order to be willing to move to action?
On the other hand, does the use of intimidation empower them to not have to “win the hearts & minds” in order to reach their objectives?

In an effort to keep the peace, would SCOs be more effective in discrediting the cause and leaders or by intercepting, counterfeiting while slightly twisting it before circulating it back to the original target audience? Creating a situation where “these messages will clash with one another and render the entire operation a waste of time and money. They will also show that they are simply part of a (poorly) planned operation and therefore lose any potential value they may have had.”

By (if possible) doing so, to what extent can it be used to maintain stability while at the same time divert funds from the force that it would rather have spent on weaponry etc?


Kind Regards

SvN

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You raise some very important points, Stefan, but as I am no expert on these matters, I shall try to answer you as best I can. I am sure our other colleagues on the blog will be able to add to this.

A critical factor in starting a revolution is that it initially requires the help and support of the “people” and to get that help and support, a clear message needs to be sent out to them. This is really grass-roots mobilisation where the message is transmitted via messengers, commissars, pamphlets, clandestine radio stations, rallies, strikes, boycotts and so forth. Every success, no matter how small, is given maximum media attention and coverage – thus enhancing the message and attracting more to join the ranks. Aiding and supporting these movements, at least in Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia and South Africa was the liberal Western media. Being able to call on this powerful tool was of vital importance in getting the message across, inflaming tensions and leading to a continual build up of pressure on those countries governments.

Trying to counter this from South Africa was the Dept of Information under Eschel Rhoodie. Probably their most successful operation was the establishment of the Citizen newspaper. But, there were others I am sure. Not having worked in that field, I cannot comment on the STRATCOM of that time but ultimately, they (NP) eventually relied on suppression of news in the belief that if people were unaware of things, they would not act against them. But, whereas they adhered to the principle of centralised control, it eventually became total control and a lot of opportunities were missed. These missed opportunities would not have altered the course of history, merely prolonged it as by then, the writing was already on the wall.

There are many African tribes that have remained passive throughout. They simply want to be left alone and be allowed to live their lives as they wish. But, despite this inherent passivity, they are under pressure to support one side or the other. It is here that SCOs and COMOPS have to battle against intimidation and terror as was witnessed in Angola and Sierra Leone. In that instance, terror will eventually triumph unless it is stopped in its tracks. For the armed opposition to triumph they need the support of the local people – a good example of this was war in Uganda that eventually led to the toppling of a government and the taking of the government by Pres Museveni. He knew how to mobilise the people against the then government and get their support. Granted, he also had foreign support such as Tanzania to assist him but ultimately, it was the Ugandans of the NRA who triumphed. But to triumph, he needed men, logistics, information/intelligence, shelter and so forth – something he could only get from the people.

SCOs need to utilise both the options you mention. After all, it is a war at the political/verbal level and it is at that level that people are won over or lost. It is here that the popular media plays a major role. Freedom of speech is one thing but the dilemma many are faced with is just how much freedom?

Again, if we look at the SCOs that took place shortly before 1994, they led to a peaceful transition from NP rule to ANC rule. But stability is a delicate situation and we can see how it is being eroded on a daily basis in SA. I do however doubt that any government will ever take it for granted and therefore the armed forces will continue to prepare for their missions as will the law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

As the adage goes: In times of peace, prepare for war.

I am not sure if this answered you in the manner you wished for but I am sure others will add valuable contributions to this discussion.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

"AFRICOM is now seen by many in Africa as a wolf in a sheep’s clothing and the Chinese as a sheep in a wolf’s clothing."

Cross-dressers both, there can be little doubt.

Cheers, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Cross-dressers or not, Alan, it is the people of Africa who will eventually decide which side of the fence they want to be on. A major part of this decision will be shaped by SCOs.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Good Morning Eeben,

Very good topic and very pertinent to what we as freemen are up against.

The message is always important and I believe we miss it mainly out of misunderstanding the culture we are feeding information to. We immediately transfer our moral system onto the listening audience and the message of the power of freedom falls on deaf ears - due to our mispackagaing the message.

We have ceded control of the real message to a media elite who are firmly in the hands of the totalitarian left. Communism has always been experts at rebaranding - notice how the media thinks of Hitler's National Socialists and Mussolinis Fascists (conveniently forgetting Franco in Spain) as ultra right wing. Communism won the information war in the 1930's be successfully rebranding the Nazis as evil (spot on) right wingers and played to the media elite to make themselves look like the lamb (dead wrong as communism/marxism has killed far more people than the Nazis)

It continues to this day with horrifyring results in Rhodesia, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Angola etc. etc. etc, - the one common theme is the rule of the masses by the all knowing elites in the socialist/communist halls of power.

As long as we can have free discourse via the internet we can survive - beware though as countries are trying to restrict thought expression. Even the US President is now talking of "too much information" and the internet being thought of a public utility (and therefore to be harshly regulated), preparing the battlefield for the next great war of ideas - by closing down information to all freemen across the earth. Once freedom is curtailed the authoritarian leaders take over and the only historical route to the end of that condition has been civil war.

Just my first few thoughts on this subject.

Hope all is well and you continue to be very busy with your business interests.

Regards,
John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

If we do not package the message for the culture it is intended for, it will surely fall on deaf ears, John. You are quite correct: often the recipient is judged according to the moral system of the sender. When that happens, not only have we wasted time and money, we have fired the first shots in battle we will not win. We do so at our own peril.

I no longer have much trust in an objective media and I still believe that we should use every effort available to expose their duplicity. For that reason, I shall continue to expose them wherever I can. The internet is anyway rapidly overtaking the value of the newspaper. In my opinion, that is a good thing but the internet is also a medium of mass disinformation, as we all well know.

What is disconcerting is your comment on the US president of wanting to restrict the flow of information. I suppose it can have its advantages, but the disadvantages surely outweigh the advantages? But then again, are we really that surprised at these actions to curtail information? If people are kept in the dark, the politicians can do as they please. If the only information available is vetted by governments, we have nothing other than SCOs on our hands.

If the only message we are allowed to receive is a SCO, we are victims of the war.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

"Even the US President is now talking of "too much information" and the internet being thought of a public utility"

It's only "too much information" John, when the blogs, talk radio, or cable news outlets fail to support the social justice, wealth redistro agenda this narcissistic communist, muslim apologist and his leftest cadres are attempting to enforce.

I pray we survive the bugger, but I am not at all optimistic.

Cheers, Alan

John said...

Eeben,

Quite correct on us being victms if we allow the media to become nothing but a purveyor of the chosen pogrom. Very challenging to keep ahead of that curve.

I do have one thought a little contrary to your thoughts on control of the message. I feel a bit that strategically we have reached a point in the conflict of ideas, that has spilled to armed conflict in a good portion of the developing world, where the idea of state socialism/communism has become ingrained in the educated elites. This message seems to be operating on a strategic scale without central control - much like islamofascism is operatiing loosely and without large central control. Both have the same objective - the downfall of freedom without a major powers conflict. Truly Sun Tzu's writing coming to light in the modern world.

Now to counter this we do have to have central control of the message in the hot spots combined with an overwhelming message on the greatness found in freedoms of speeach, thought, and most importunely the right to keep and bear arms (to protect those fundamental God given rights). If we can hold off the conflicts that threaten our systems with perturbances - firstly with strong intelligences and the strong message tailored to the listener we can hold off the darkness while our culture destroys the fallacy of socialism/communism/fascism slowly by showcasing the power of freedom. It will take strong arms, rock solid morals, and great education to prevent the corrupt media from destroying our culture and making us sheep bleating for our shepards to lead us to feed.

Thanks again for this platform to bat ideas back and forth and think from multiple angles for each problem.

Regards,

John

BTW - had a great conversation about "The Art of War" in a bookstore with my daughter this past weekend. Your insightful posts helped me to explain it better to her. She at first thought is was a very strange title, but once explained it made good sense to her.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is for that very reason that battles may be won but the wars lost, John. I believe that I, like many others, watch the SCOs and see how they shape people’s perceptions and erode their beliefs. Sometimes this can be unnerving to witness.

Reading your comment on the co-joining of ideologies with state and the educated elite, I tend to agree with you. However, one also needs to question how educated they can be when they get major facts wrong. Example in case was the recent showing of South Africa on a map of South America by a large US TV network. But of course you are correct: the objective is clearly spelt out – some people just choose to ignore it.

Culture is a good weapon if it remains uncontaminated. That is why the SCOs in Africa are aimed at eroding culture in order to bring about collapse. Where the standard of education is low, the SCO message invariably takes hold. The result is usually mass chaos.

For that reason, I believe that SCOs should be part of the political and military strategy and should be implemented long before an operation takes place. If not, one stands the chance of turning the liberated into the “oppressed” and ultimately the “enemy” or “insurgent”.

It is I who should thank everyone who comments on my soapbox statements. I think I learn more than most by everyone’s comments.

Rgds,

Eeben

PS: I am pleased if this forum could help your daughter understand things better.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am afraid I cannot comment on that Alan and will wait for John’s response.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

This topic is awesome, and I have held back a little bit before posting.

One of the things I think about with strategic communications, is how do you influence others to accept your point of view? Or how do you get others to embrace concepts that are either foreign to them, or kind of complex? And with that communication, am I achieving a strategic goal during that process.

All of these questions are stuff I look at while blogging. Blogging has totally become a tool of strategic communications operations for little guys like me, and I find it to be fascinating. I am effectively reaching out to a readership, and giving them the weapon of knowledge. Knowledge is power, and in the war time sense and contracting sense, that knowledge can equate to the eradication of our enemies or to gaining contracts that make people a lot of money. That knowledge distribution brings in more readership, and the whole thing builds on itself--slowly and with a steady curve going upwards.

Now if I had celebrity, I could have magnified my strategic communications ten fold. But hey, it is fun to grow it from the ground up, and make something out a bunch of ideas.

Going back to influencing others. I read a book called Influencer awhile back, and there were some concepts that really struck home for me about influencing others. They talked about the two best ways of changing someone's mind about something, and they listed being a good story teller and/or taking that individual on a field trip, as the two best ways of changing someone's mind.

With blogging, being a good story teller, or providing quality content is crucial if you want to change minds or educate people. Obviously I cannot take people on field trips to show them a different way, but I can certainly take them on a trip with my blog. Good story telling is crucial to selling books, film, music, strategy, ideas, etc. People have a hard time paying attention to you, if you cannot keep their attention.

So that is my commentary on strategic communications. To prep that mental battlefield, you need to be able to reach them mentally with content that grabs them. Good propaganda, music, film, blogs, all of it are tools you can use to prep that battlefield, so that you can go in and do what you gotta do on the ground. Or basically, go in and take the local population on a 'field trip', and show them exactly what you have been talking about in your SCO. Interesting topic Eeben and thanks.

matt said...

Speaking of strategic communications operations, guess what contractors are being asked to do in an upcoming contract in Iraq? I had to post this here because I knew you would get a kick out of this Eeben. lol
--------
Pentagon tries to steer media coverage on Iraq

By WALTER PINCUS
Tuesday, May 25, 2010; A23

The Pentagon may be sharply reducing its combat forces in Iraq, but the military plans to step up efforts to influence media coverage in that country -- as well as here at home.

"It is essential to the success of the new Iraqi government and the USF-I [U.S. Forces-Iraq] mission that both communicate effectively with our strategic audiences (i.e. Iraqi, pan-Arabic, international, and U.S. and USF-I audiences) to gain widespread acceptance of core themes and messages," according to the pre-solicitation notice for a civilian contractor or contractors to provide "strategic communication management services" there.

Calling strategic communications "a vital component of operations in Iraq," the notice says one goal is "to effectively build U.S. decision makers' and the public's understanding of Iraq's current situation, future and strategic importance as a stabilizing presence and ally against terrorism in the Middle East."

The notice is a prime illustration of how the military is increasingly integrating information operations into the heart of its commands. The contractor team of 10 to 12 people is expected to provide work of "executive level quality, commensurate with that of a four-star military headquarters command." And, this being a military activity, the "personnel must display the highest degree of professionalism in appearance, personal behavior . . . with no more than one personal conduct incident occurring over the period of performance."

The contractor is to serve as "a media advisor/speechwriter for the USAF-I spokesman and shall provide support to the J9 STRATCOM media outreach section," including prepping military officers for news conferences.

Before interviews with USF-I commanders or spokesmen, the contractor will have the task of talking with reporters ("pre-engagement with media outlets to determine the nature of the interview and the questions that will be asked by the media during the interview . . . to ensure that USF-I spokesman has maximum situation awareness prior to the interview").

When interviews are concluded, the contractor will be responsible for submitting an "electronic report capturing the key questions from the media and answers from the interviewee within 24 hours" with "a detailed recap of the interview [as] the core component of the report."

The contractor can expect to prepare for "between 20-40 media engagements per month" and to write "10-20 single or double page talking point summaries monthly."

Another major effort for the contractor will continue to be "media monitoring, assessment and reporting." Both Arabic and Western sources are to be monitored, including CNN, Fox News, and other U.S. and British television channels, plus the major wire services and the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post. The assessments will cover the effectiveness of USF-I strategic communications as well as attitudes among the Iraqi population toward USF-I. Another element is to be the "attitude of pan-Arab/Western media and professionals" toward the government of Iraq.

read the rest here.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/24/A
R2010052403839.html

Gatvol said...

"AFRICOM is now seen by many in Africa as a wolf in a sheep’s clothing and the Chinese as a sheep in a wolf’s clothing."

Interesting, and I would only have brought this up, because I visit occasionally. But I also see the U.S. presence blaring through the internet.

"Even the US President is now talking of "too much information" and the internet being thought of a public utility"

Not that I take his message with a grain of salt, but there are no less than three "sites" on Facebook put out by the U.S. mainly back slapping for projects of civil help, conducted by the military. (Go Figure)

One that "got my Goat" was the US Mission to South Africa. Daily postings of their warm and fuzzy stuff out there and they will have NO criticism. As one who got booted in mentioning how wrong they were on a subject , I can attest to their purpose.

So the Communications Operations have proven to me at least they are not open and only there to win the hearts and minds before (fill in the Blank) outshines them.
Im sort of a simple type, and as said at Nandos some years ago, I was a Military Man myself. My only guidance was to win, it required that we were able to Shoot, Move and Communicate. Lose any of those and your in trouble.
I think the U.S. is doing a fine job of letting all know they are in this for the long haul.
As was said above we are certainly barring no expense to play in the mud with Pigs in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wish someone would just remember that the Pigs like it and we just end up muddy.

John said...

Good Evening Eeben,

In regards to the current president of the US he very much had the message controlled for him - the old school media definitely did not do a proper job vetting his background, associations and qualifications. Inline with what the thread is the overarching message fed to the US voter has been one of a centrist - the message does not have any indication of being a quasi marxist/fascist but the actions of the administration don't seem to fold in with one following the Constitution. The republic will survive if the supreme court does not roll over to a left-wing (progressive) view. The key is the elections in November.

Now how does this fit in regards to communicatiosn operations? Directly - the smooth talking message said one thing when post election we have seen an agenda that is a combination of fascism and marxism/communism. In essense the battle was lost without a shot - the voters followed along meekly. The message has been successfully fed out for decades that centralized planning and control is the answer - where in the past open warfare erupted when this was imposed.

The results of this type of rule can be seen in their end state in modern Zimbabwe I believe - where Rhodesia took the same path as the USA in leaving the English empire the media wolves decended on the countyr and forced a different outcome. I do hope South Africa does not follow as that may be the end of any chance to relieve the misery of the continent.

The message though is the same, and very effective. On such a vast scale freedon of speech and action has been infringed upon so much to protect so called rights (not those conferred by your chosen maker) that real liberty is destroyed. We must know our opponents, those who try to take away our communications (our blogs, talk radio, even casual conversation) and oppose them with the methods we discuss here - Sun Tzu and von Clausewitz do have the strategy spot on - our weapons are our words and information dissemination (the ground soldier's intelligence). Our opponents follow the writings of Marx/Lenin/Alinsky - false prophets of freedom. Those commentators on this blog who have actually seen combat have protected this right with their blood, and maybe their immortal soul. We can not shirk our duty in retaining it. The USA had a spasm like this in the 1860's - I would hate to see something similar with modern weaponry on a vast scale. Only my bit of perspective from North America - a bit heavy on the politics but I believe still terribly relevant.

Best regards,

John

tyhz1995 said...

I would agree completely comm. ops. can wield enormous power and can indeed shift public course of thought.The media in the US for example.They downplay excesses and prop up marginal accomplishments.The reporting on the world economic situation could very accurately be labelled a misinformation campaign.It is understandable however as the sheep would flip.There are rumours that an old intel hand like me can discern as probably true and they trouble me as likely instability looms.An earlier poster,the left has killed far far more than the right and is somehow seen by the sheeple as the lesser of two evils.I myself cannot understand.Nice to chime in again Mr.Barlow.I hope all is well.Carry on.-Tyler

Email said...

Eeben,

Its good to challenge the growing use (and confusion) of I/O. Opinion of it seems to reflect the viewers experience. Propaganda, disinformation, jamming, eavesdropping, marketing, psyops, information etc etc

If you travel to Afghanistan (which had a media footpring of the BBC World Service and local newspapers during taliban time you now find over 2 dozen TV, stations, cel phones, radio and a vibrant communication media.

This is made even more interesting by the taliban's embracing of electronic and print media along with al-qaeda's "more bark then bite" strategy.

You could make an argument that the war in Afghanistan could be solely fought on the information battlefield, motivating local actors to deal with hostile actors.

You were quite innovative in "branding" EO and I am curious what your viewpoints are on how you view the current I/O program in Afghanistan.

Also if you have ever opined on how BW failed so miserably in protecting their "brand"

best

RYP

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Getting others to accept your point of view is actually a complicated process, Matt. Whereas I will not go into detail here, it is all about given the recipient “small bites” of the large cake – and monitoring the feedback/reaction from each bite. For that reason SCOs are long-term operations that require in-depth planning and careful execution.

The manner in which you run your blog (www.feraljundi.com) gives your recipients an entire varied spectrum of thought and opinion. Due to that approach, people believe what they read on your blog. That gradual build up of knowledge is essential to anyone who wants to know about things and develop his/her own thoughts on how to react in certain situations. As far as I am concerned, I think you are most definitely achieving your goal. That is why your growth curve is what it is – people refer others to your blog.

The role of SCOs is often neglected in favour of the attack. But, in preparing those in the target area on what to expect after the attack is equally important. If we don’t do that, and do it carefully with knowledge, the “liberated” will become the “insurgent”. Then it is too late to consider using SCOs.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Very interesting, Matt. Thank you for the link.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Whereas SCOs have a role to play, they should not be so one-sided that the recipient knows that they are warm and fuzzy words with no substance, Gatvol.

I see that COIN has become the new catch-word and everyone is suddenly becoming COIN conscious. Whereas it is important to win the hearts and minds of the locals, it is equally important to win the shooting war. Winning one without the other will result in a loss. However, there are those who believe COIN is won simply by hearts and minds.

SCOs need to be planned well in advance and based on “real” intelligence and not on what someone in an office dreamt up. Then, these operations need to be launched well in advance of the war – and in such a manner that no one suspects them of being SCOs. At the tactical level, troops on the ground need to manoeuvre and fire – not to be sidetracked with other issues. They should however be aware of COMOPs and its role but that should be left to others who are trained in COMOPs to carry out. When SCOs, COMOPs and combat are not balanced, any force will be in for a very long and costly haul.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Whoever runs the most effective SCO will in all probability win the November election, John. But running it effectively requires the message to be propagated at many different levels as Matt pointed out.

An effective SCO can reach and influence many but when the promised actions do not materialise, people begin to see just how flimsy it all is – all talk and no substance. That in itself will alter the mindset of people. If actions cannot be delivered, the sender is seen in much the same light as a Potemkin village. Voters can be very fickle, especially when their interests and basic freedoms are threatened. When the voters revolt against the “system”, the only manner to reduce their anger is change or enforce with violence. What we see in Zimbabwe is the latter – and sadly it is also starting to happen in SA.

When people are denied their right to voice an opinion by whatever means, things start to develop into anger, mistrust and even worse. Then the best SCO will not really eliminate the distrust that has been built up over time.

Many of us have been in a position where the soldiers won the battles but lost the war due to ineffective SCOs. When those SCOs are furthermore countered by ones so-called allies, all hope is lost.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

If one can determine the agenda of the sender, one understands what is actually going on and what the true message is, Tyler. As you correctly point out, these operations can indeed shift public opinion.

Given your background, I am sure you are able to see through a lot of the fluff that is put out to appease the voters. But, the question is, do the voters see it? Usually they don’t. When they don’t realise what is happening, then one needs to accept that the SCO being communicated is indeed effective.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very important element you point out, RYP. As you well know, if the pre-study isn’t done correctly on the target audience, the message can be manipulated to suit the recipient and his cause as it can be twisted. A lack of understanding of the situation also allows for a direct stream of disinformation to be fed into the medium thus creating a lot of white noise and confusion.

This in itself can make a strategy of more bark than bite effective as you are being fought with your own “weapon” simply because you misunderstood the value of your SCO/COMOPS weapon.

When the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan, they may have faced the local insurgents but they were also fighting a massive propaganda war (SCO) from the West, along with Stinger missiles and other support and advice. I mention this because of your comment on motivating local forces to fight hostile forces. This is an important factor in any conflict.

As for “branding” EO, I think the work the men did more than anything else gave the company its reputation. Of course, the SA Dept of Foreign Affairs, Mil Int, the media and their agents-of-influence tried to counter this in the countries we were working in but the message was in direct contrast to what those countries knew about EO. So, by them misunderstanding their Operating Environment, they miscalculated the message. But, ultimately they were able to overpower us with their disinformation. Jealousy, as Blackwater can attest to , is a difficult battle to fight and win, especially when the odds are stacked against you.

As for the situation in Afghanistan, I am not very well placed to comment on that apart from what I hear, see and read. But, it is very obvious to me that the SCO was not considered and implemented until sometime after the troop deployments – by which time it may all be a little too late.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Eeben,

As always, great commentary here. You are correct - the message has been building for a generation which we have seen as successful infiltration of very powerful forces aligned against freedom in a large portion of the world. Propaganda, for good and ill, has grown exponentially due to the internet - now those in power want to shut it down so the voters remain uneducated. The word is getting out - the failures of centralized control are coming to light no matter how effective the SCO has been from 1960 to 2008.

But on this weekend in the US we honor those who have given the last full measure of devotion fighting for freedom.

I want to personally thank you and all your commenters who have stood against the evils in the world in the name of freedom for us all.

This is a great place to get ideas out and discussed with multiple views. It will take a long time for this message and others to reverse the tide against freedom in the world but this may be a "tipping point" (with credit to feraljundi.com)

Regards,
John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I also enjoy everyone’s commentary on this blog, John, as I learn from everyone’s thoughts and comments.

Yes, propaganda is growing exponentially due to the numerous mediums available to disseminate it. This can lead to an overload of black, grey and white propaganda leading people to becoming confused as to the true message. It is in this environment that SCOs can flourish if correctly packaged. But, it requires “knowing” the recipient to maximise its impact.

I think that we should take on those who use these mediums to mislead and confuse the recipients through black propaganda. They should exposed whenever they use their positions to propagate misleading information and lies as “fact”.

So little thought is given to those who fight for freedom. There are those who operate on totally different levels from one another but who are all hoping to achieve the same end goal. Then there are those who have given their lives and limbs to ensure freedom for all. Thank you for remembering them.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Good Evening Eeben,

We have a perfect comparison on the effectiveness of the progressive SCO message playing out on the world stage right now. Isreal enforces a legitimate blockade and is being pilloried in the world press and by "leaders" worldwide. Hamas has the world media, especially Europe, eating out of its hand. The Isreali blockade must be hurting Gaza - I wonder if the people are kicking the terrorists out of their homes (very good sign). I have not read enough yet on it but the Isreali intelligence seems to be a little light on this op as well. They seem to be losing the message war badly - or they are not trying.

In direct contrast North Korea commits a blatant act of war by killing > 40 S. Korean sailors and the "UN" can't even get around to holding a security council meeting on it.

The message is loud and clear - progressive communist acts of war good, self defense by freedom loving people bad. (I won't even get near rising anti-semetism) At least the blogs are getting the videos out.

This is going to be a rough summer.

Regards,

John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

This has certainly provoked a series of different reactions across the world, John. What I found of interest was someone from the Israeli opposition criticising the entire operation. What is apparent is that one side is using the media to the maximum and the other side isn’t. This in itself speaks volumes on who is using SCOs to gain benefit.

As for the UN and the North Korean incident: I have always made my thoughts on the UN known. They seem to usually choose the side that is guaranteed the most publicity (usually the side that is in the wrong) as that guarantees them publicity. I must admit that I am not in favour of such parasitic SCOs.

As you say "This is going to be a rough summer" - but interesting.

Rgds,

Eeben

Raven said...

Good day,
I'm not sure how long this will be avalable, but worth reading I think.
http://www.slate.com/id/2254054/?GT1=38001

Regards
Stefan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A fascinating piece, Stefan. Thank you for sending us the link. It is definitely worth reading.

Rgds,

Eeben